Toys for Tots will be collecting toys for children from Monday, October 26 to Saturday, December 12 at various locations.

Christmas morning should be a magical time for children, but there are some in our area who may need a helping hand to make this come true. Thousands of children in need will get gifts from Santa this Christmas thanks to the efforts of Toys for Tots.

Since 1947, Marine Corps Reserve Units nationwide have encouraged businesses to gather new, unwrapped toys for needy children. The local Toys for Tots places toy collection boxes in businesses and churches through the efforts of local coordinators Donald Pearson and Ann Hathaway of Pearson Capital, a financial investment company in Apollo Beach.

This year will mark Pearson’s 16th year with the Toys for Tots, which has grown overtime to become one of the largest toy collection efforts in Tampa Bay.

This effort continues to grow each year.

“Last year, through the generosity of more than 100 local businesses, the local Toys for Tots collected more than $9,000 in cash, 6,000 toys and over 100 bikes, which made up 60 percent of the Hillsborough County collection,” said Hathaway. “And this year, the need is going to be overwhelming.”

Toy collecting begins at the various businesses and locations from Monday, October 26 to Saturday, December 12. This year, the program is looking for three to four more volunteers to be ‘Box Captains’ for the program. Each Box Captain will be assigned 10-15 businesses to make sure that collection boxes are placed and will be the primary point of contact during the collection.

Toys are to be new, unwrapped and in their original packaging. Hathaway explained that all new toys are welcome, but there is often a shortage of toys for children ages 0-2 years old as well as gifts for preteen boys ages 11-14. She also said that new bicycles are in high demand each year.

Due to COVID-19, the collection party that is held at The Alley at SouthShore, located at 10221 Big Bend Rd. in Riverview, is going to be different this year. The Marines from the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion will be greeting the businesses that will be dropping off the toys at The Alley in a drive-through format with surprise giveaways and a strolling Santa between 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, December 12.

Registration is now open for family toy requests until Sunday, November 15 at www.tampa-fl.toysfortots.org. If your business would like to be a collection site, email Hathaway at pearsoncapital7@gmail.com or call 645 6392. Some of the normal drop-off sites each year are Rachel’s Family Salon in Apollo Beach, The Alley and NV Salon & Spa in Riverview.

There are typically more than 100 collection sites in Southern Hillsborough County. Visit Toys for Tots on social media or its website for a complete list of locations.

For more information, email Hathaway at pearsoncapital7@gmail.com. For more information on the Toys for Tots program, visit www.toysfortots.org.